Eucharistic Discipleship: Seeking Union with God, Part II

The path of Eucharistic discipleship leads to union with God in Jesus Christ. The Holy Eucharist is above all the sacrament of union. This union is the supreme realization of the full, conscious, and active participation in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass to which all the baptized are called.

The missionary disciple must always go forth into the world from the reality of communion in the Body of Christ to bear witness to the light and life of Jesus Christ.

Last week I introduced the theme of union with God and spoke of about the dominion of lust and sexual immorality as obstacles to this union. This week my intention is to write about humility, truth, and loving obedience to God’s will as paths to union. We walk these paths at Mass in a special way through the penitential rite, the liturgy of the word, and the sacrifice itself.

If we wish to be united to something or someone, we must first recognize the separation that exists. Sin separates us from God and so long as we remain in this life we fall into sin time and time again. The book of Proverbs tells us that the just man falls seven times and rises again. (Pr 24:16) St. John writes, If we say, “We have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” (1 Jn 1:8)

The pilgrim path of this life involves a continual battle against our actual sins and our sinful inclinations, so that we can draw ever nearer to God. Along these lines St. Paul writes, It is not that I have already taken hold of it [the resurrection from the dead] or have already attained perfect maturity, but I continue my pursuit in hope that I may possess it, since I have indeed been taken possession of by Christ Jesus. Brothers, I for my part do not consider myself to have taken possession. Just one thing: forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead, I continue my pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus. (Ph 3:12-5)

The penitential rite at the beginning of Mass is not for those who because of unrepented mortal sin are separated from God and deprived of the life of grace, but for those who are pursuing the upward path, still fighting the battle against sin, not content with where they are, but seeking always to grow in the grace and love of Christ.

Humility is the virtue whereby we acknowledge above all who we are and where we stand before God. The penitential rite, as a confession of the fundamental truth of who we are, sinners, introduces us to the Mass with an act of humility. In that act of humility we also acknowledge our need for God’s mercy and the prayers of the saints and the prayers of our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Through humility we recognize that we stand before God as sinners, but we also open ourselves to receive his gracious gift. Jesus says, Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted. When led by the Holy Spirit we humble ourselves as sinners before God, the same Spirit lifts us up to discover our inestimable dignity as children of God. St. Paul writes, Those who are lead by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, ‘Abba, Father!’. (Rm 8:14-15). So from ourselves we are sinners, but by his gift we are children of God. This is the gift we receive in Baptism.

That leads us then to the Liturgy of the Word, in which we are instructed to walk by faith, not by sight, (cf. 2 Cor 5:7) living as children of God. Before departing from this world, Jesus commanded his Apostles saying, Go, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.

Humility sets us on the path of truth; this enables us to live as disciples of Jesus, the way, the truth, and the life. (Jn 14:6) Jesus teaches us to live as he lived and gives us the power of his Holy Spirit to do so. He said, I have given you an example, so that as I have done for you, so also you should do. (Jn 13:15) Jesus’ example is completed and summed up by his self-offering, his sacrifice upon the Cross. So also, Jesus’ teaching in the Liturgy of the Word prepares us to unite ourselves to his life-giving example in the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the Holy Sacrifice. (To be continued)

Let us now consider the Liturgy of the Word, which is an integral part because we gather precisely to listen to what God has done and still intends to do for us. It is an experience which occurs “live” and not through hearsay because ‘when the Sacred Scriptures are read in the Church, God himself speaks to his people, and Christ, present in his own word, proclaims the Gospel’. (General Audience, January 31, 2018)

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Fr. Joseph Levine graduated from Thomas Aquinas College and after a long journey was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Baker, Oregon. He currently serves as pastor of St. Peter Catholic Church in The Dalles on the Columbia River.

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